In which the boss bitch kvetches

I kinda think it has something to do with both of us having engineer fathers, but we’re very DIY here at North 54th. So it’s a tad exciting when we decide it’s time to actually hire something out. And a tad, er, disconcerting.

This time we’re trying to hire someone willing to not only stand on a two-story ladder but also scrape, prime and paint the eaves all around the house while they’re up there. I’ve scraped, primed and painted many a thing around here, and I’ve done so on stepladders, 2 stepladders with planks running between them, 10-foot ladders, ladders contorted into fake scaffolding and, last year, on real scaffolding I bought so I could avoid doing so on a 15-foot ladder. You can see that I would really like to avoid doing so while standing on a 26-foot ladder. So I commenced with calling painter guys, or contacting them anyway (XXO, interwebs).

Painter guy #1 had a great website where I could schedule an appointment right away. On the appointed day, he calls and says he’s running early and will be here soon. Me, still lolling about in my nightshirt, zip off to throw on some clothes and in the zipping end up ripping my favorite pair of pants. Then painter guy shows up … on time. Really, dude, on my Saturday? OK, putting that aside, we tour the property and he seems pretty cool except that he wants to powerwash everything, even things that are not part of the project. But he chats knowledgeably with me about oil primer and paint and even agrees to use it them on the job. We part and a I never hear from him again. Maybe I’m being rash in saying that, but no bid after 3 weeks seems unencouraging.

Painter guy #2 responds favorably after I send him the detailed project list (there’s part of the side porch, several pieces of window trim and limestone ledges I want done too, and a strip on the garage, and the exteriors of some crappy windows on the back porch) and comes to check the place out. He seems great, lets me know when he’s doing research to formulate the quote and then delivers a well-crafted bid that seems quite high but includes him heat-stripping the paint to bare wood. Overzealous—just the way I like ’em! But he specs a primer called Mad Dog, which I’ve never heard of. And when I ask him to tell me about it and why he thinks it’s right for my job, he just says it’s great and Mad Dog has a great website and I should look at it—which of course I already have. I was really hoping for a little more effort to sell me on the stuff, or at least say how long he’s worked with it and why he likes it. It’s a gluey product like Zinsser Peel Stop, which I use but I’m not sure it’s best for this application. Then he tells me about the new federal regs about removing paint on old houses and asks when the house was built. So he’s going to a course about this and the price will go even higher afterward. And I bet you I already know what he’s going to learn in that course—for one thing that he shouldn’t be sanding my paint like he was planning to. And he probably should be doing what I originally asked for—scraping (and of course collecting the chips) and covering.

Painter guy #3 is responsive, has to cancel his first appointment due to a late-running job in the burbs but comes by the next day and is the only one who doesn’t try to upsell us on extra work. He takes a few days but sends his bid—his ridiculously low bid. But it specifies that he’s going to do exactly what I laid out on my job sheet. So I kind of like that because I’m not convinced that guy #2 is even going to be able to scrape to bare wood. I’ve worked with this stuff and it is tenacious. So I e-mail back thanking him and saying I just want to check in on exactly which Benjamin Moore products (his preference) he suggests for my job, specifically which primer. I tell him about the poor results I’ve gotten with latex primer on trim just like this and ask what he thinks about an oil primer, specifically the penetrating primer, A-100. He writes back and says he always uses MoorGlo, a premium paint, on exteriors. Which is great by me, but I was trying to ask about the primer, not the paint!

So I don’t know where I am with all this. I’ve come to think that painters have their stuff they’re going to use, and you might get to pick colors but you’re not going to budge them off their products. So I need to find someone who will listen to what I’m saying—I’ll pay extra for you to make it clear that you’re listening!—and whose preferences match my own. Geez, it’s like trying to find a husband.

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One Response to In which the boss bitch kvetches

  1. I suspect they’re generally not used to having a client who actually knows something about painting. You’ve probably caught them off-guard! I know that if I were hiring someone to paint my house, I wouldn’t know enough to ask them even one intelligent question about what sort of primer would be used!

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